4th Sunday of Advent

Prince of Peace

(Mark 4:35-41; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27)



“In the autumn of 1873, Horatio Spafford, a wealthy Chicago businessman, placed his wife, Anna, and their four children on the Ville du Havre sailing from New York to France. He was forced to stay in the United States for several more weeks to settle some business matters before he could journey to join the family in Europe.


The evening of November 21 found the Ville du Havre prow-east toward France on a calm Atlantic. The journey was progressing beautifully. A few hours later, about two o'clock in the morning on November 22, the Ville du Havre was carrying its sleeping passengers over a quiet sea when two terrific claps like thunder were followed by frightening screams. The engine stopped, the ship stood still. Passageways were filled with terrified, half-dressed people shouting questions that no one could answer. The Ville du Havre had been rammed by the English vessel, the Lochearn.


Mrs. Spafford saw three of her children swept away by the sea while she stood clutching the youngest child. Suddenly, she felt her baby torn violently from her arms. She reached out through the water and caught little Tanetta's gown. For a minute she held her again. Then the cloth wrenched from her hand. She reached out again and touched a man's leg in corduroy trousers. She became unconscious. She awoke later, finding that she had been rescued by sailors from the Lochearn. But her four children were gone.


In the meantime, Horatio Spafford was back in the United States, desperate to receive news of his family. Finally, the blow fell. A cable arrived from Wales stating that the four daughters were lost at sea, but his wife was still alive. He was crushed with what had happened. All night he walked the floor in anguish. Toward the morning he turned to his friend, Major Whittle, and said, ‘I am glad to trust the Lord when it will cost me something.’


On the way across the Atlantic to join his wife, the captain announced that they were now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked. For Horatio Spafford, this was passing through the valley of the shadow of death. He sat down in his cabin on the high seas, near the place where his children perished, and wrote the hymn that would give comfort to so many, titled "It Is Well with My Soul."


Source: John Huffman, "The Fruit of the Spirit Is Peace," PreachingToday.com



Verse 1

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way. ​​ When sorrows like sea billows roll. ​​ Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say. ​​ It is well, it is well with my soul.

Verse 2

Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come. ​​ Let this blest assurance control. ​​ That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.


Peace is a lot like joy, it can be experienced even when there is turmoil and chaos, hardship, trouble, violence, and fear. ​​ As the hymn so beautifully captures, this journey of peace is not immune from those things. ​​ In fact, they are central to the story. ​​ We learn that peace is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of God.



  • ME

    • Minimally high blood sugar and blood pressure

        • It wasn’t long after moving from Ohio to Missouri that I went to the doctor for a regular physical

        • The bloodwork caused the doctor to order a glucose tolerance test

        • Those are always fun, aren’t they, especially for someone who hates needles

        • The test revealed that I had minimally high blood sugar

        • I was also struggling with minimally high blood pressure numbers

        • The doctor asked me all the questions they normally ask to determine if there was anything I should stop doing

          • Do you smoke? ​​ (No)

          • Do you drink alcohol? (No)

          • Do you take drugs? (No)

        • The doctor then asked me a couple of other questions

          • Do you exercise regularly? (No)

          • Are you under any stress? (YES!)

            • We had just moved to Missouri not long before the appointment

            • We had bought our first home

            • I started a new job at the Headquarters of Child Evangelism Fellowship

            • Judy had had a miscarriage before we moved to Missouri and now she was expecting Levi

        • The doctor’s response was, “Well, there’s nothing I can tell you to stop doing, but I would encourage you to start exercising every day.”

    • Daily exercise

        • I started riding a stationary bike in our basement

        • I started out slow and eventually was riding between 20-30 minutes a day

        • I lost a little bit of weight, I didn’t need to lose much back then

        • The cardio-vascular workout was good for my heart

        • We started eating a low sugar diet also

    • Peace in the middle of trouble

        • Exercise was a part of what I started doing, but I also started praying specifically about my blood sugar and blood pressure

        • Prayer is what motivated me to continue to exercise and it helped to bring me peace

        • I knew that everything was going to be alright, because God was with me


  • WE

    • What pain are you facing this season?

    • What struggles are weighing you down?

    • What anxiety and stress are stirring up chaos in your spirit?

    • Those pressures and problems can be both external and internal

        • We often take the external pressures and problems and internalize them

          • When we internalize those pressures and problems we begin to experience health problems

          • It’s our body’s way of telling us that something isn’t right

          • Stomach ulcers are a sign that our body is producing too much acid

          • High blood pressure can be an indication that stress is present

          • Headaches and muscle aches can be an indicator that our bodies are tense

          • Insomnia can be a result of our brains trying to process the problems and pressures we are experiencing

    • Are you willing to open your heart to God’s peace even in the midst of your struggles?


Through this journey of peace, today, we can be assured that . . .


BIG IDEA – God’s presence provides peace.


Let’s pray


This journey of peace is certainly an appropriate journey for our world today. ​​ Just as the ancient Roman world must have felt during that first Christmas, our world seems full of violence, warfare, and uncertainty. ​​ In addition, the pressures of our daily lives barrage us at an unparalleled pace. ​​ Ours is a world in desperate need of peace! ​​ However, it is a world where the Prince of Peace has walked and He understands. ​​ He has come, and He is present. ​​ His peace is available to us today.


  • GOD

    • Peace in the Midst (Mark 4:35-41)

        • The first Christmas

          • We sing about that first Christmas night being a silent night where everything was calm and bright

          • I’m not sure that’s exactly what the characters in the Christmas story were experiencing

            • The city of Bethlehem was hustling and bustling with an influx of those who were from the line of David

            • The city was filled to beyond capacity with people from all over the region

            • These travelers were tired, dirty, and probably testy

            • Everyone was trying to find a place to stay and perhaps food to eat

            • Mary and Joseph were perhaps anxious, nervous, and stressed as Mary went through her first delivery

            • It was shortly after giving birth that the shepherds began to arrive

          • King Herod

            • Sometime during Jesus’ first two years of life, the Magi arrived in Jerusalem

            • They questioned King Herod about the whereabouts of the baby who had been born king of the Jews

            • Matthew tells us that King Herod was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3)

            • The news of Jesus’ birth did not bring peace to King Herod and since the King was disturbed, so were his subjects

            • King Herod ordered that all the boys, two years of age and younger, living in Bethlehem and the surrounding vicinity, were to be killed (Matthew 2:16)

            • Imagine the chaos King Herod’s order created in Bethlehem and the surrounding villages

            • The parents of two year old boys and younger were not experiencing peace

          • Application

            • Can you relate to the chaos that those who were part of the first Christmas were experiencing?

              • Perhaps you’re going to be traveling or have already traveled to be here this morning and you understand the exhaustion, frustration, and testiness that the travelers in the 1st Century felt

              • Maybe you’re experiencing the interruptions of a quiet family time together as others come to see you

              • Some of you may be experiencing the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one during this Christmas season, so you understand the exhaustion and emotions involved in both of those scenarios

            • Our journey of peace is not one separated from the realities of life but a journey of peace in the midst of life with all its noise and chaos

            • SONG LYRICS – “The Rain Keeps Falling” by Andrew Peterson

              • I tried to be brave but I hid in the dark
                I sat in that cave and I prayed for a spark
                To light up all the pain that remained in my heart
                And the rain kept falling

                Down on the roof of the church where I cried
                I could hear all the laughter and love and I tried
                To get up and get out but a part of me died
                And the rain kept falling down

                Well I'm scared if I open myself to be known
                I'll be seen and despised and be left all alone
                So I'm stuck in this tomb and you won't move the stone
                And the rain keeps falling

                Somewhere the sun is a light in the sky
                But I'm dying in North Carolina and I
                Can't believe there's an end to this season of night
                And the rain keeps falling down
                Falling down
                Falling down

                There's a woman at home and she's praying for a light
                My children are there and they love me in spite
                Of the shadow I know that they see in my eyes
                And the rain keeps falling

                I'm so tired of this game, of these songs, of the road
                I'm already ashamed of the line I just wrote
                But it's true and it feels like I can't sing a note
                And the rain keeps falling down
                Falling down
                Falling down

                Peace, be still
                Peace, be still

                My daughter and I put the seeds in the dirt
                And every day now we've been watching the earth
                For a sign that this death will give way to a birth
                And the rain keeps falling

                Down on the soil where the sorrow is laid
                And the secret of life is igniting the grave
                And I'm dying to live but I'm learning to wait
                And the rain is falling

                Peace, be still
                Peace, be still

                I just want to be new again
                (Peace, be still)
                I just want to be closer to You again
                (Peace, be still)
                Lord, I can't find the song
                I'm so tired and I'm always so wrong

                Help me be brave tonight
                Jesus, please help me out of this cave tonight
                (Peace, be still)
                I've been calling and calling
                This rain just keeps falling
                (Peace, be still)
                I've been calling and calling
                But this rain just keeps falling and falling

                Is it You
                Is it You
                (Peace, be still)
                Is it true
                Is it You
                (Peace, peace)

              • The lyrics contain a long and honest confession of so many struggles

              • Notice that interjected into the lyrics are the words of Jesus, “Peace. ​​ Be still.”

              • We can have peace in the midst of life in a fallen world with God’s presence in our lives

              • The words that Jesus spoke are found in Mark 4:35-41

        • Jesus calming the storm

          • Read Mark 4:35-41

          • The disciples were in a situation where they felt helpless

          • They were afraid!

          • Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat – the storm did not bother Him

          • After the disciples woke Him up, He immediately rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet, Be still!” (most translations have “Peace, Be still!”

          • Jesus asked His disciples why they were so afraid

            • His second question concerned their faith in Him

            • The disciples should have known by this point that Jesus was all-powerful

            • His power, from God, extended to all of creation

            • God’s presence was with Jesus, so Jesus’ presence provides peace

          • Application

            • Jesus’ presence in our lives provides peace also

            • We don’t have to be fear when pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress stir up chaos in our spirit

            • We can have faith in Jesus who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign

            • Perhaps you need to express that faith today

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress of ________________.

              • I’ve found that Jesus’ peace can be found in reading God’s Word the Bible

              • It can also be found in praying – that’s us talking to God

              • God talking to us requires us to sit quietly and patiently before Him – we can experience peace in those moments as well

              • Some people have a specific place where they go to find peace from the chaos of their lives

        • Jesus brings peace right into the center of our hurt and frantic striving

        • He brings power to cease the noise, calm the storm, and overwhelm our hearts with His restorative sense of perfect peace

        • He is indeed the Prince of Peace

    • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

        • Isaiah 9:6, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. ​​ And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

          • Peace is not just a feeling or a state of being

          • Peace is a person

          • Jesus is the Prince of Peace

          • By sending His Son, God sent peace into the world

            • Paul tells the Ephesian Gentiles that before they came to faith in Christ, they were separate from Christ

              • Ephesians 2:12, remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

              • That is the condition of every person who is born – we are separated from God and Christ and we have no hope

              • Sin is what separates us from God and Christ

              • Sin is the rejection of God and His authority in our lives

              • We become our own boss/authority

              • God’s Word tells us that when we reject Him and become our own boss, that there is a consequence for that – for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)

            • When we reject God and His plans and way we are really at war with Him

              • Perhaps you’ve experienced that in the past or are experiencing that right now

              • You know that God is pursuing you, because He puts people in your life who talk to you about Him

              • Your reaction towards them is harsh and unkind, not because you don’t like them but because you’re at war with God – you’re not at peace with God

              • Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty talks about his life in his book Happy, Happy, Happy

                • He thought he was happy, but he was busy “romping, stomping, and ripping with [his] drinking buddies”

                • He owned a honky-tonk bar at this point in his life

                • His sister decided that Phil needed to hear about Jesus, so she brought her pastor, Bill Smith, with her to the bar

                • This was Phil’s reaction, “‘You some kind of preacher?’ ​​ I immediately asked him. ​​ When Smith told me he was, I added, ‘You ever been drunk?’ ​​ ‘Yes, I used to drink a few beers,’ he told me. ​​ ‘Well, what’s the difference between you and me?’ ​​ I asked him. ​​ ‘You’ been drunk, and I’m getting drunk right now. ​​ There ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between you and me, Jack. ​​ You ain’t putting any Bible on me. ​​ That’s the way I was born.’” [Robertson, Happy, Happy, Happy, 79]

            • God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him

              • It is through the Prince of Peace – Jesus!

              • Ephesians 2:14-18, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. ​​ His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. ​​ He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. ​​ For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

                • In this passage, Paul is talking to both Jews and Gentiles

                • He was explaining that through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, all people could now be reconciled to God – it wasn’t just for the Jews anymore

                • Jesus’ sacrifice brought peace between the Jews and the Gentiles

                • It also brought peace between God and humanity

                • Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

                  • There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our sin problem

                  • There is nothing we can do on our own to deal with our rejection of God

                  • God in His infinite wisdom, justice, and love provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him – to have peace with Him

                  • It is through faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross

                  • Justified can be defined as “just as if I have never sinned”

                  • That is how God sees us when we admit we are sinners, repent of our sins, and trust in Jesus by faith

              • Perhaps you’re ready to be reconciled to God today – to be at peace with God

                • You’re ready to end the war with God

                • You’re ready to accept God’s authority in your life instead of rejecting it

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize Jesus as the Prince of Peace, admit I am a sinner, repent of my sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

        • Peace with God does not guarantee freedom from pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

          • We are human and still fallible

          • We still make mistakes and fail to trust God in every area of our lives

          • Mary’s example

            • In the midst of all that was happening that first Christmas, we are told that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19)

            • On the surface, Mary’s life did not become more peaceful

            • If anything, things got crazier with the announcement of her miraculous pregnancy and the birth of a new baby

            • But Mary was learning to trust the One who was in control

          • When we can surrender control – stop worrying, stop planning, stop striving – to the Prince of Peace, we can find rest in Him

            • The inner and outer chaos, anxiety, noise, and busyness of life may not change, but we can experience peace because we trust the One in control

            • Where do you need to surrender and enter the journey of peace this season?

            • I want to encourage you to pause and embrace the words of the Psalmist, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

            • The same things I mentioned earlier about how to find Jesus’ peace also apply to being still, and knowing that God is God (reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer, and repeating Scripture)

            • This can happen in the morning before your day begins, throughout your day as needed, and before going to bed

        • While we can experience peace through Jesus Christ, we also realize that the world around us may still be experiencing pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress

    • Peace for the World (John 14:27)

        • All we have to do is look at the news coverage to realize that our world is not at peace

          • Countries are at war

            • Ukraine and Russia

            • Israel and Palestine

          • Hostages are being mistreated

          • Refugees are far from home

          • Our neighbors are hurting

          • There is violence in our schools and in our streets

          • Church leadership teams are discussing strategies to provide a safe and secure environment for their parishioners to worship in

          • There is anger in our families

        • While Jesus brought peace to the earth when He came the first time, it is not a perfect or complete peace

          • We live in the tension between the already and not yet

          • We know that Jesus has won the battle over sin and death, but the manifestation of that victory is still to be revealed when Jesus comes again

          • In the interim, we are encouraged to draw close to God and to rely on Him for His peace

          • God’s presence provides peace

          • Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ​​ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

            • God’s peace doesn’t make sense to us as humans

            • It’s beyond our understanding sometimes

            • Have you or someone you have known experienced that kind of peace?

              • Perhaps they’ve gotten news about their health that is concerning, but instead of worrying about it they immediately began to pray and while they should be stressed, they’re at peace

              • When someone losses their job or is just struggling financially, yet they’re not anxious about the situation, but are trusting God, it doesn’t make sense – that’s the peace of God that transcends our understanding

            • Our natural inclination is to worry, fret, and complain instead of turning to God in prayer, waiting on Him, and experiencing His peace

              • So often we come to God asking Him to change our circumstances or those around us

              • Sometimes God answers our prayer by changing our circumstances or those around us

              • More often, He uses the difficult circumstances to change us – He wants us to be transformed and to grow in our faith

              • He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign

              • He knows what’s best for us

              • He will not give us more than we are able to bear, without providing a way of escape

              • Perhaps you’re feeling anxious, right now, about a particular circumstance in your life

              • Now is the time to turn to God in prayer and present your petitions to Him with thanksgiving

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving, because I am feeling anxious about ________________.

          • Jesus gave His disciples a promise that is still relevant for us today

            • He promised them the gift of peace

            • John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ​​ I do not give to you as the world gives. ​​ Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

            • We can claim that promise for ourselves

            • We don’t have to be afraid, because we serve a God who is in control of everything

            • Whatever is causing you pain, struggle, anxiety, and stress now, in the end, Jesus’ peace will overcome it

            • His peace will sustain us through our difficulties, which may be great but are also momentary (2 Cor. 4:17)


  • YOU

    • You can trust by faith in the peace that Jesus’ presence can bring during the pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress that you’re currently experiencing

    • You can recognize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, admit you are a sinner, repent of your sins, and have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ

    • You can turn to God in prayer with thanksgiving about the circumstances you’re feeling anxious about


God’s presence provides peace.

 ​​ ​​​​ 


“[John Stott says], Let me quote from the end of Kenneth Latourette's seven-volume history of the expansion of Christianity. Referring to Jesus he says, ‘No life ever lived on this planet has been so influential in the affairs of men as that of Christ. From that brief life and its apparent frustration has flowed a more powerful force for the triumphal waging of man's long battle than any other ever known by the human race.’


‘Through it, millions of people have had their inner conflicts resolved. Through it, hundreds of millions have been lifted from illiteracy and ignorance and have been placed upon the road of growing intellectual freedom and control over the physical environment. It has done more to allay the physical ills of disease and famine than any other impulse, and it has emancipated millions from chattel slavery and millions of others from thralldom to vice. It has protected tens of millions from exploitation by their fellows, and it has been the most fruitful source of movements to lessen the horrors of war and to put the relations of men and nations on the basis of justice and peace.’


This is the influence of Jesus through his followers in society. Don't underestimate the power and the influence that even a small minority can exert in the community.”


Source: John Stott, “Christians: Salt and Light,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 109.





Christmas Sunday

Seeking the Savior

(Luke 2:1-20)



“For reasons I cannot quite remember (perhaps the guidebooks or the guide himself told us it wasn't much to get worked up about), I wasn't excited to visit the birthplace of Christ [while on a study tour of Israel in the summer of 2000]. I recall wishing we could spend our time in Jerusalem, but I didn't have a choice. If the group was going to Bethlehem, I was, too.


We walked through the dusty streets of the town and soon came to the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. We stood in line for what seemed like hours, winding our way downward into a series of caves (though we often have nativity sets of barns and stables, Christ was actually born in a cave).


Once there, I was hushed by the holiness of it all. There were candles lit here, there, and everywhere. Hundreds were on their knees in prayer, scattered about on the cold, damp floor. We made our way to the traditional cave of the birth where we read Matthew's story once again. Soon we were singing. ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ and ‘Silent Night.’


Right there in a church building that has been ravaged by war and terrorism and today is owned by four different religious groups, we prayed for peace. We offered a continued invitation for shalom. It was one of the more sacred moments of my life.


As we left, I passed by all the pilgrims yet again. Some were from Germany, Poland, or Italy and others from England, Spain, or China. They, too, sang and prayed. Anger and violence wrestled about in all our worlds, but in that moment we had all come together in Bethlehem to worship and celebrate the Prince of Peace who, if anything, was working shalom into the folds of our lives as he will until the day he returns to work it into all things, once-for-all.”


Brian Lowery, "Still Unto Us," Christian Standard magazine (12-17-06).





  • ME

    • Seeking the perfect Cabbage Patch Doll

        • During the Cabbage Patch Doll craze my sister wanted one

        • She had specific things she wanted for her doll (blonde hair and saddle shoes were two things)

        • Our family was traveling over the holidays and decided to stop at a Hill’s Department store in some town

        • They were getting ready to hand out Cabbage Patch Dolls at the doors to their back storage area

          • Everyone was told, by the employees, that you had to take whatever doll was handed to you (you couldn’t request a specific doll)

          • While we were waiting, another family stepped in line in front of us

          • I remember that our family was pretty irritated by that, but we didn’t say anything

          • When my sister was handed her Cabbage Patch Doll, it had blonde hair and saddle shoes – just what she wanted

        • God is in control of everything and He allowed that family to step in line in front of us for a reason

          • Had we protested, my sister may have gotten a different doll

          • We had to trust God and be obedient to our Christian values, of being kind and compassionate, even in difficult situations

          • While it was frustrating for a little bit, the end result was beyond our imagination and fulfilled the desires of a young girl


  • WE

    • Perhaps all of us can think of a time when we were confronted by frustration concerning something we’ve been seeking

        • Maybe we were seeking a certain item, especially during Black Friday shopping, only to find out that the item had already sold out

        • There are times when hunters have done all of the right things to prepare for the season, only to find out that someone else has harvested the buck, we’ve been scoping out and tracking, prior to opening day

        • It may take quite a bit of travel to eventually find the thing we’re seeking

    • In God’s sovereignty, He allows difficulties to come our way, so we’ll trust Him and many times the end result is beyond our wildest dreams and fulfills our heart’s desire

Through the very familiar Christmas story found in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll see that Mary and Joseph had to travel a long distance in order to be obedient to God through the census decree. ​​ It was probably a difficult journey, especially for Mary who was close to full term in her pregnancy. ​​ The shepherds also had to travel a short distance, after experiencing a frightening encounter with an angel and the glory of God, in order to be obedient to God. ​​ Luke wants us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – Finding the Savior requires obedience.


The Jews were seeking the Messiah (Savior). ​​ They were looking forward to His arrival.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Luke 2:1-20)

    • Mary & Joseph’s Obedience (vv. 1-7)

        • PRINCIPLE #1 – God controls all history.

          • God uses the events of this world to accomplish His purposes

          • That’s exactly what He was doing with Caesar Augustus and his decree about a census of the entire Roman world

            • Anyone who doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t believe that God is sovereign will look at Luke’s Gospel and say that the census decree was just a coincidence

            • Individuals who believe in God and that He is sovereign will recognize that God is in control of all history

            • Two examples

              • John Cafarchio told me last week that the Sunday school lesson he taught hit some of the same points that the sermon did last week (that’s not coincidence, that’s God’s sovereignty and His control)

              • Pastor Marc and I were discussing the message he will be sharing on December 29, 2019 and it struck me that God moved some things around, in the preaching schedule, so that the passage of scripture Marc will be sharing fits perfectly with the beginning of the new year and an incredible initiative that will be introduced (I won’t step on Marc’s toes, but God is in control and He orchestrates things perfectly)

              • We could try to manufacture these kinds of things, but it’s much more powerful when God orchestrates them on our behalf (my prayer is that we’ll have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying to us, so we don’t miss out on praising and glorifying Him)

            • Application

              • How has God used events or circumstances in your life to accomplish His purposes?

                • Can you recall a specific situation where you saw God work things out, so that you knew He was in control?

                • Are you attuned to what God is doing in your life and at Idaville Church?

                • Are you listening to His voice?

                • Too often we have a preconceived idea of how we want God to work in our lives and how we want Him to answer our prayers

                  • When we focus on that, we will miss what He is doing and saying to us

                  • We have to be willing to submit to His will and plan

                  • When we focus on Him, it will be easy to see what He is doing and hear what He is saying to us

                • God is in control of every circumstance in our lives, so we need to trust Him and follow His lead

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Watch and listen for ways that God is showing me that He is in control and then praise and glorify His name.

            • So, Caesar Augustus’ decree was not by chance, but by God’s sovereign providence and plan

          • Everyone went to his own town to register

            • “‘Own Town’ means one’s ancestral home.” [Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke, 106]

              • This is a little different for us today, because the United States is a melting pot of ethnic groups from all around the world

              • Perhaps you’re able to trace your lineage back to a specific country

                • Judy’s maiden name is Doolittle

                • That last name is pretty easy to trace back to England

                • Maybe you have a last name that’s easily traced back to a particular country

                • [Let the congregation share their country of origin]

              • Others of us have a more difficult time of determining our lineage

                • My own lineage is a melting pot

                • We are part Irish (Kennedy), part Swiss German (Rife [Reif], Hykes, & Johns), part Native American (Seneca, from my mother’s side)

                • Tschantz (Swiss German farmers) became Johns in the United States

              • The simplest way for us to relate to our “own town” would be to think about the town where we were born or perhaps the town where our parents were born

                • My parents would claim Chambersburg and Greencastle as their birth place

                • I was born in Huntington, IN

                • [Let the congregation share where they or their parents were born]

                • Just imagine if we had to return to the town where we were born in order to register for taxation

                • “The census, which could be controversial, uses customs that would be the least offensive. ​​ For Jews an ancestral registration would be a most natural way to sign up for taxes (2 Sam. 24).” ​​ [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Luke, 204]

                • Caesar Augustus was using the path of least resistance in order to accomplish his goal of tax income

            • That’s what Joseph and Mary had to do, but they had to trace their lineage back hundreds of years to King David and what was considered his home town

          • So, Joseph and Mary set out on their journey

        • Their journey

          • Joseph and Mary were living in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee when the decree was communicated

          • They had to travel 70 miles south to the town of Bethlehem in the region of Judea, or 90 miles if they bypassed Samaria

            • [show map]

            • It would take about 33 hours to walk that distance, so it was at least a three to four-day journey for them

            • Bethlehem was at a higher elevation than Nazareth, which explains Luke’s use of, “went up,” even though they were traveling south

          • While it only mentions that Joseph belonged to the house and line of David, we know that Mary could also trace her lineage back to David

            • Mary would not have been required to go to Bethlehem to register with Joseph, because the registration would have been for the entire family

            • But, I can only imagine that Mary wanted her husband to be there for the birth of her first child

            • Both Mary and Joseph had been visited by an angel telling them about the child Mary was carrying

            • I’m sure Joseph didn’t want to miss this incredible birth of the Messiah

          • All of this was taking place because God is in control of all history

            • It was foretold hundreds of years before, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem

            • Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

          • So, Mary and Joseph had to be obedient to God, through the census that Caesar Augustus had decreed, in order to see the Savior

          • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

        • Jesus is born!

          • While they were there” is a non-specific time identifier

            • Luke doesn’t give us the exact timeframe of how long Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem before Jesus was born

            • He just tells us that “the time came for the baby to be born

          • Mary gives birth to her firstborn, a son

            • She does what all mothers did at that time, and used pieces of cloth to wrap Him up

            • The cloths helped to keep the baby warm, but it also helped to keep their arms and legs straight

            • We call this swaddling today

              • Seth and Emily were pros at this with our granddaughter, Kinsley

              • When she would be fussy, they would wrap her up tight in a perfect swaddle and Kinsley would settled down and be able to sleep

              • It gave her comfort and warmth and she felt secure

              • They can’t do this anymore, because she’s rolling over on her own

            • Mary also did something that most mothers probably did not do at that time

              • After she swaddled Him, she placed Him in an animal feeding trough (manger)

              • The reason Luke gives, is that there was no room for them in the inn

                • The inn should not be mistaken for a hotel or motel in our day and age

                • It would be more like a hostel where everything was shared

                • “The ‘inn’ probably refers to a public caravansary (a crude overnight lodging place for caravans), which was the one lodging place in Bethlehem.” ​​ [Stein, 107]

                • The stable was perhaps beside this public shelter in a cave

                • Mary and Joseph took refuge in the stable since there wasn’t any more places available in the public shelter area

              • The unique cradle for Jesus was again by God’s design and purpose

                • We don’t know if there were other babies born that night, but if there were, Jesus would be the only One using a feeding trough as a cradle

                • This would be an important sign for the shepherds, as we’ll see

        • Mary and Joseph have been obedient to God by following the decree to register in their ancestral home town of Bethlehem

        • Luke then tells us of a group of guys hanging out in the fields outside Bethlehem

    • Shepherd’s Obedience (vv. 8-20)

        • Shepherds (v. 8)

          • Who were these shepherds?

            • Some characterize shepherds as dishonest and despised by the culture of the day, but those views come primarily from 5th Century literature and writings

            • “Shepherds in an agrarian society (crops and farmland) may have small landholdings, but these would be inadequate to meet the demands of their own families, the needs of their own agricultural pursuits, and the burden of taxation. ​​ As a result, they might hire themselves out to work for wages. ​​ They were, then, peasants located toward the bottom of the scale of power and privilege.” ​​ [Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke, 130]

            • This did not mean that they were dishonest

              • In fact, the shepherd motif in the Bible is primarily positive

              • In the Old Testament we find that Abraham, Moses, and David had all been shepherds at one time in their lives [Bock, 213]

              • The New Testament even uses the concept of a shepherd to identify leaders within a church, and how they lead the church as shepherding (taking care of the flock) [Bock, 213]

            • The shepherds were perhaps taking care of the sheep that were used for sacrifices at the temple

            • Because of their occupation, they were considered ceremonially unclean and could not worship at the temple

            • Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

          • So, these peasant farmers who had hired themselves out as shepherds were watching the sheep in the middle of the night, when something incredible happened!

        • Angel’s announcement (vv. 9-14)

          • The shepherds are minding their own business and perhaps talking quietly around a camp fire when all of sudden there is another person there with them

            • They don’t mistake this person for another shepherd or a townsperson, because God’s glory is shining around them

              • Isaiah 60:19, The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

              • Revelation 21:23, The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

            • In the darkness of night, it becomes like daylight

              • What do cockroaches do when we turn a light on? ​​ (they scatter in fear)

              • What’s our reaction when we’ve been in the darkness for a long time and sudden a bright light is turned on? ​​ (we may jump because of being startled)

              • The shepherd’s reaction is no different (they are terrified)

          • The angel’s words

            • Do not be afraid

              • This is not the first time that the angel of the Lord has had to comfort those to whom he has visited and brought a message

              • He had to do the same thing with Zechariah (Luke 1:12-13) and Mary (Luke 1:29-30) [Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary, Luke, 29]

            • I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people

              • Good news

                • The Greek word for “good news” is euangelizomai and means “to proclaim and preach the good news” [Bock, 215; Stein, 108]

                  • The good news was that on that same day in Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord

                  • Savior (soter) – Jesus will deliver His people [Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s (Luke 1:67-79) hymns expressed this truth]

                  • Christ – it comes from the Greek word for “Anointed One” and speaks of Jesus’ as the Messiah (the promised One)

                  • Lord – “the holy, unspeakable personal name of God himself” [Butler, 30]

                • This Greek verb (euangelizō) and noun (euangelion) are where we get our English word evangelism

                • We’re commanded to do the same thing that the angel did with the shepherds, proclaim and preach the good news of Jesus Christ

              • Great joy

                • The message of the Gospel (good news) should bring us great joy

                • “Gospel elicits joy, not fear. ​​ Joy is the inward feeling of happiness and contentment that bursts forth in rejoicing and praise.” [Butler, 29]

              • All the people

                • PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus came for all people.

                  • Now this doesn’t mean we’re automatically guaranteed salvation and heaven

                  • We’re all born with a desire to have our own way (it’s called our sinful nature)

                  • David spoke about being sinful from the time he was conceived, which means from the time life begins in the womb (Rom. 3:23)

                  • Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve, for our sinful, rebellious nature (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:3-4)

                  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for my sins on the cross and receive God’s gift of eternal life.

            • The sign

              • The angel doesn’t command the shepherds to go into Bethlehem and find Jesus, but what the angel says next is specific information on how to identify the correct baby

              • So, it’s implied that they should go to Bethlehem and check out this incredible baby

              • They’ll know they’ve found the right place when they find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (feeding trough)

          • What the shepherds get next is a heavenly choir concert

            • A great company of angels join the angel who had told them about Jesus and they begin to worship God

            • They glorify God, because He has fulfilled His promise of sending a Savior

            • This Savior is going to bring peace between God and those in humanity who believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and accept His gift of eternal life (on whom his favor rests)

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus brings peace between God and humanity.

              • Romans 5:1-2, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. ​​ And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

              • Ephesians 2:14-16, For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. ​​ His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

          • As soon as the angels returned to heaven the shepherds started talking among themselves

        • Shepherd’s response (vv. 15-20)

          • Let’s go!

            • The shepherds understood the implied message from the angel

              • They couldn’t wait to see with their own eyes what the Lord had made known to them

              • They had to obey what the Lord had told them through the angel

              • Finding the Savior requires obedience.

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – God’s desire is that His people seek Jesus.

              • That’s exactly what the shepherds did

              • They found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger

              • The idea behind the word found is that they searched, without stopping, until they found the right baby

              • That’s perhaps where some of us are today

                • We’ve been searching for true peace

                • We’ve looked at many different religions, but still haven’t found the peace of God

                • If that’s you, I want to encourage you to keep searching, keep seeking, until you find Jesus

                • Don’t ever give up

                • He came for you!

            • After the shepherds found Jesus they didn’t just sit there at the manger for the rest of their lives, rather, they started telling other people about Him

          • Let’s share!

            • They told everyone what they had seen and heard about Jesus, the Messiah

            • Those who heard were amazed

              • That doesn’t mean that they believed in Jesus as the Messiah or their Savior

              • The same will be true for us when we share with others about Jesus

                • They may see a radical change in us and think how amazing that transformation is, but still not believe in Jesus as their Savior

                • Some people are excited for us and that it “worked” for us, but still not believe it will “work” for them

                • Our responsibility isn’t to save them, but to faithfully share the Gospel (good news) with them

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Faithfully share the Gospel with those I come in contact with.

                  • I would encourage you to begin praying each day for divine appointments to share the Gospel and then be on the look out

                  • Jesus commanded His disciples and us to do this continually (Matt. 28:18-20)

                  • Making disciples is more than just a quick Gospel presentation and a prayer

                  • When someone responds to the Gospel it means walking together with them as they grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

                  • That takes a lifetime

              • Mary was contemplative and took Jesus’ miraculous birth and the incredible story of the heavenly host that the shepherds shared with her and remembered them with fondness – it would be something she would never forget, but return to continually as she raised Jesus

            • The shepherds weren’t done

          • Let’s rejoice!

            • After seeing Jesus and telling others about Him, they returned to the fields outside Bethlehem, but they didn’t do it quietly

            • They glorified and praised God for all that He had done

            • Application

              • Have we done that recently?

              • Let’s do that this morning

                • We added 2 new members this past year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We know of 2 individuals who accepted Jesus as their Savior (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 8 people baptized this year (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were 5 children dedicated to the Lord ((“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were healed this year through supernatural means or through surgery (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were people who were spared even though they went through an accident (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • There were individuals and families who experienced restored relationships (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

                • We had individuals in our lives who were promoted to heaven (“Thank you God, we praise You!”)

            • God is worthy of our praise and worthy to be glorified!


  • YOU

    • God controls all history, including the circumstances you are currently going through

    • Jesus came for all people to bring peace between God and us

    • God’s desire is that we seek Jesus


  • WE

    • As a body of believers we need to share the Gospel with others

    • As a body of believers we need to rejoice in what God has done



As you celebrate Christ’s birth with family this Christmas, take time to remember the significance of what God did in fulfilling His plan of salvation through His One and only Son, Jesus Christ. ​​ Make sure that you are seeking the Savior during this season and all year long.